Wildfire Smoke Envelops the U.S.

Residents of the western U.S. and Canada have become grimly accustomed to smoke-clogged air from wildfires during the summer months. This week, the problem has spread to the Midwest and the East Coast.

New York City was filled with reddish haze yesterday, with its worst air quality on record. A Broadway matinee was interrupted when its star had difficulty breathing, and some nighttime shows were canceled. Pro sports teams in both New York and Philadelphia postponed their games. In Binghamton, N.Y., a meteorologist said that the area around him “looks like Mars” and “smells like cigars.” In Toronto, residents awoke this week to find a thick layer of ash near open windows.

The immediate cause is a series of wildfires in Quebec and Ontario, which began burning weeks ago. The larger cause is the same one damaging the air quality in the West: a sharp increase in wildfires during the 21st century, caused partly by the hotter temperatures and drier conditions created by climate change.

Bill McKibben, the writer and environmental activist, lives in Vermont and argued that the Canadian fires have given millions of North Americans a sense of what other people already know. “Today is our chance to understand what it really feels like every day on a fossil-fueled planet, for the billions of people unlucky enough to really bear the brunt,” McKibben wrote on Substack. “My eyes are stinging a bit from the smoke, but I’ve never seen more clearly.”

My personal version of McKibben’s point is that I had a headache much of yesterday while working in downtown Washington. It reminded me of a similar headache when I first visited Beijing, in 2010, and inhaled the pollution there. (Here is advice from The Times about pollution-related headaches.)

The rest of today’s newsletter is broken into three parts: a selection of the best coverage about what’s happening, from The Times and elsewhere; a forecast for the next few days; and advice about how to deal with the poor air quality.

The details

Hundreds of fires are burning out of control in Canada, stretching local crews thin. These maps track the smoke.

Areas of the Northeast, Midwest and South are under air quality alerts. Here’s what those alerts mean.

“It’s pretty off the charts”: The past few days rank among the worst for wildfire pollution in U.S. history, Heatmap reports.

In New York, commuters flipped their pandemic precautions, wearing masks as they approached a subway station and pulling them off before boarding.

Since 2000, wildfire pollution has reversed significant gains from the 1970 Clean Air Act, David Wallace-Wells writes, and will eventually become the country’s main source of particulate pollution.

Eastern states are wetter than Western ones but still vulnerable to drought and fire, Kendra Pierre-Louis writes in The Atlantic: “The East will not emerge unscathed from the infernos that are quickly becoming a hallmark of western summers.”

The effects of climate change are apparent across the U.S.: Oceans are warmer than they have been in decades, and in Puerto Rico, the heat index reached 125 degrees.

What’s next

The hazy, unhealthy air in New York City is expected to spread south and west across the U.S. today, enveloping millions more Americans.

As of this morning, Philadelphia had the largest concentrations of fine particulate matter. The authorities issued a “code red” air quality alert. Washington’s air — officially “unhealthy” — was only slightly better.

By Friday, the worst pollution is expected to move away from the Northeast.

“The weather pattern may finally break down this weekend, and by Sunday the winds may shift, providing relief from the smoke,” Judson Jones, a meteorologist and Times reporter, wrote. “Relief could come even earlier if progress is made on putting out the wildfires.” But Judson added that wildfire season had only just started, which means haze could return this summer.


Wildfire smoke is “like tobacco smoke without the nicotine,” one expert said. Here’s a guide to keep yourself and your family healthy.

The pollution can worsen asthma, lung disease and heart conditions, New York officials warned. N95 masks, worn snugly, can help.

Air purifiers are the best way to keep your home clean. If you don’t have one, turn on your air-conditioner — and keep your windows closed.

Kevin Yamamura, a Times editor in Sacramento, where such smoky conditions often persist for weeks, recommends keeping an air quality app handy, like this one from the E.P.A. When the gauge is above 150, it’s a sign that you should not exercise outside. (It exceeded 400 in New York yesterday.)

Pets are also vulnerable. Jerry Klein, a veterinarian, advised dog owners to keep the bathroom walks brief: “You want to be in and out.”


Trump Investigation

Prosecutors informed Donald Trump’s legal team that he is a target of their investigation into the classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago.

The move signals that prosecutors will likely file charges soon, probably in South Florida, The Washington Post reports.


Mike Pence criticized Trump over the Jan. 6 attack. “President Trump’s reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol,” he said at a campaign event.

Doug Burgum, the Republican governor of North Dakota and one of the richest men in the state, announced a campaign for president.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’s decision to fly migrants to California proves he’s betting provocation will help him win in 2024, Shane Goldmacher writes.

A rebellion among far-right Republicans over Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s debt deal has paralyzed the House. Representatives are barring their own party from voting on bills.

House Republicans canceled a vote to hold the F.B.I. director in contempt after he agreed to share a document containing an old, unsubstantiated bribery allegation against President Biden.

Louisiana lawmakers passed a bill banning transition care for transgender children.


Chris Licht is out as CNN’s chief executive after a chaotic year.

The Los Angeles Times is cutting more than 10 percent of jobs in its newsroom.

Tucker Carlson released the first episode of his social media show, “Tucker on Twitter.” It looked like an improvised lockdown broadcast from 2020, James Poniewozik writes.

Other Big Stories

Floodwaters from the dam collapse in southern Ukraine have destroyed towns, spreading chemicals and dislodging land mines.

Liberal prosecutors are reopening cases involving police brutality, but their investigations aren’t leading to many criminal charges.

Pope Francis had surgery to treat a hernia and is expected to stay in the hospital for several days. This is the second time he has been hospitalized recently.


Biden lacked rhetorical presence during the debt negotiations. He made up for it with potent results, Matthew Yglesias writes.

Here are columns by Bret Stephens on the Ukraine war and Charles Blow on anti-L.G.B.T.Q. legislation.


1970s vibes: A famed Colorado restaurant is back, complete with cliff divers and faux gold mines.

Bathroom cleaning: Protect your tiles and grout instead of trying to rescue them.

Advice from Wirecutter: Pick the best camping tent.

Lives Lived: The pianist George Winston helped define new age music, but he liked to call his style “rural folk piano.” He died at 74.


Lionel Messi: Soccer’s most coveted free agent chose to play in Miami, rejecting a monumental offer from Saudi Arabia, The Times writes. Ticket prices surged across Major League Soccer, The Athletic reports.

N.B.A. history: Nikola Jokic became the first player to record 30 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists in a Finals game. He achieved the feat during Denver’s Game 3 win last night, The Athletic writes.


Freeing the body

Over the past decade, California has been expanding arts programs in its state prisons. Visual arts and music are popular, but an unexpected art form is taking off at a few prisons: dance. “We were going against a whole culture that defines dance as weak,” said Dimitri Gales, a former inmate who started a dance class at a prison in Los Angeles County.


What to Cook

This Greek chicken with cucumber-feta salad is perfect for summer.

What to Listen to

The rocker John Mellencamp has a new album: “Orpheus Descending.”

Now Time to Play

Here are today’s Spelling Bee and the Bee Buddy, which helps you find remaining words.

And here are today’s Mini Crossword, Wordle and Sudoku.

Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David

Here’s today’s front page.

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David Leonhardt writes The Morning, The Times’s flagship daily newsletter. He has previously been an Op-Ed columnist, Washington bureau chief, co-host of “The Argument” podcast, founding editor of The Upshot section and a staff writer for The Times Magazine. In 2011, he received the Pulitzer Prize for commentary. @DLeonhardt Facebook

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